Llyr Gruffydd AM, Shadow Minister for the Environment and Rural Affairs
July has given us the hottest summer month on record. On Thursday, the UK saw its hottest day yet with temperatures reaching a staggering 37 degrees Celsius.
But whilst the images of children splashing in lidos and carefree lovers sharing an ice cream cover the front pages it’s easy to forget that this is one of the very real consequences of global warming and we can no longer afford to ignore it.
Last week, activists and demonstrators have taken to the streets of major cities across England, Scotland and Wales – including our own capital city of Cardiff. Taking over major roads in the city centre including Castle Street, they set up a colourful base camp with tents, music and activities outside City Hall as part of a huge protest against government inaction on climate change.
But despite the colourful nature of the protest, the challenge is grave and it is worth reminding ourselves about why we’re here, why the passion and what is at stake.
Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report found that “Global warming is likely to reach 1.5°C between 2030 and 2052 if it continues to increase at the current rate.”
It went on to say that every extra bit of warming over 1.5 degrees Celsius increases the “risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems.”
This should be a game-changer for all of us.
Climate change is already happening. The world is currently 1 degree Celsius warmer than preindustrial levels and every fraction of additional warming would worsen the impact.
As I write this, we are right in the middle of a climate crisis and an ecological crisis.
20 of the hottest years on record have happened in the last 22 years.
Soil quality has deteriorated across all habitats apart from woodland.
1 in 14 species in Wales is threatened with extinction with 57% wild plants, 60% butterflies and 40% birds in decline.
The recent State of Nature report showed that over half of Welsh wildlife is in decline and one in fourteen species in Wales are under threat of extinction.
Nature is life’s support system. It protects us from flooding, stores carbon, and provides us with clean water and air. If we lose that, we lose an integral part of our health and well-being as a species.
But that’s not all.
We also have a moral obligation to work in the best interest of future generations and to deliver climate justice to less well-developed countries. Those countries in the so-called global south, who have done little to contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions, are bearing the brunt of the climate crisis.
Mongolia’s temperature has already risen by 2.2C, creating climate migrants from rural to urban areas. They have the worst air pollution in the world.
Mozambique is staring into the eye of climate change. They faced cyclone Idai in March, then cyclone Kenneth immediately afterwards. Fifteen miles from the coast of Mozambique, the land has turned into sea leaving a thousand people dead and half a million people displaced. When Gracia Machel, Mozambique’s former First Lady travelled to Beira in the aftermath of Cyclone Idai, she said the city would go down in history as the first to be 90% wiped out by climate change.
But balanced with destruction is innovation, and its the pioneering world leaders we must follow.
Jacinda Ardern, the Prime Minister of New Zealand, has said there will be no further gas and oil exploration permits granted. New Zealand is a major oil and gas producer, but even they recognise that there has to be a transition.
Earlier this year, the Republic of Ireland confirmed it will become the world’s first country to sell off its investments in fossil fuel companies, after a bill was passed with all-party support in the lower house of parliament. The state’s €8bn national investment fund will be required to sell all investments in coal, oil, gas and peat “as soon as is practicable”, which is expected to mean within five years .
In the US, Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s ambitious and radical Green New Deal aims to virtually eliminate US greenhouse gas pollution in a decade – the strongest proposal yet to tackle climate change.
We in Plaid Cymru have outlined the type of initiatives that will be set up when we are in government that would ensure Wales takes its place as a world leader in the fight against the climate crisis.
These include setting up a national energy company to help Wales achieve its goal of becoming self-sufficient in renewable energy, to the energy atlas which will enable us to begin unlocking some of that potential in a way that benefits our communities and citizens.
We must strengthen building regulations to ensure not only that our homes are more energy efficient but turning them into their own power stations. Improving our existing housing stock is also key, something that demands the biggest investment in retrofitting homes ever seen in Wales. We need huge transport reforms including a more decisive shift from roads to public transport.
Plaid Cymru also supports divesting public pensions from fossil fuels and we’re campaigning for a Clean Air Act to tackle pollution levels that currently cause 2,000 deaths a year in Wales.
Plaid Cymru are proud of our radical and innovative green policies that are pillars of a vision of the New Wales that we champion. But, when facing the climate change challenge we need everyone to pull their weight – and none more so than governments, politicians, big business and public organisations.
This must be a global movement to meet a global challenge.
Plaid Cymru stands with and joins the climate protestors in the fight to save our planet.
It’s not too late to act. But we have to do it now.